The UK’s new Coronavirus Bill will relax safeguards in mental health legislation and suspend the obligation of duties currently required of care service providers by the Care Act for up to two years.

The new legislation intends to ensure that health services can continue to operate in the event of anticpiated increased demand.

However mental health service user organisation NSUN (the National Survivor User Network) are among those concerned that the Coronavirus Bill is likely to have a serious negative impact on the lives and rights of people who live with mental ill health, distress, or trauma.

Disabled people with care and support needs and their carers may also be negatively impacted by the legislation, at a time when their needs may increase.

NSUN this week called on MPs debating the Coronavirus Bill to insert a six month sunset clause for any changes to the Mental Health Act which reduce people’s right to care or which remove safeguards intended to protect their human rights.

New legislation will remove the need for the recommendation of two doctors  a solitary recommendation will now suffice  for an AMHP (Approved Mental Health Professional) to be able to approve the detention of a patient for treatment against their will.

NSUN is also calling for a reversal of the proposed suspension of the elements of the Care Act which set out the duty to meet the needs of those in need of care.

'Unprecedented crisis'

"We recognise that this is a time of unprecedented national crisis for us all but are concerned that the needs of those who live with mental ill-health, trauma and distress will be pushed into the background," said Akiko Hart, CEO of NSUN.

"We are extremely concerned that any changes to the Mental Health Act should be time-limited with a clear timetable for their reconsideration."

"Depriving individuals of their liberty is a serious matter as is providing treatment or support for people when they are experiencing a mental health crisis and are at their most vulnerable."

"Existing safeguards have not always proved sufficient to prevent harm. We are also concerned that the Coronavirus Bill has not factored in the shortage of Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs), without whom admissions to hospital cannot be made."

NSUN argue that the current benefits regime should be relaxed for the duration of the crisis so that no one runs the risk of either benefits sanctions or being forced to comply with benefits rules which may put them or their loved ones at greater risk.

The membership body also believes that any changes to the Care Act which may deprive people of care and support are "too important to roll into such a sweeping bill and need to be debated separately".

"Now is not the time to risk the health and wellbeing of those in our society in most need."

"Many people who live with mental ill-health, distress or trauma depend on benefits and social care. We urge MPs and the government to think very carefully about whether the Coronavirus Bill will affect these people disproportionately."

The government's department for health and social care were approached for comment.